Wife over parents? Or parents over wife?

In a recent interview, the Indian cricket team captain mentioned how he rates his country & family over his wife. This, in my opinion, is one of the biggest attitude problems plaguing our country that goes unaddressed. Who do you prefer? Would you take your wife’s opinion over your parents’? As a corollary, if you parents and your wife ask you to do two conflicting actions, who would you go with? Your wife, or your parents?

Why are these questions always one sided? Why do we never hear a question where a wife has to take her husband’s opinion over her parents’? It seems that our patriarchal society has already made this decision for a woman and this decision is hammered in her head during her life with her parents and then reinforced during marriage. The concept of the woman being “paraya dhan” (that crudely translates to someone else’s property), that after marriage a woman’s primary concern is her husband’s well being, not her parents’ in any way. We keep pushing this stereotype through every single means possible, be it our movies, television or popular culture. The main ritual of Indian(read hindu) marriage is “kanyadaan”, where the parents give their daughter away to the man. I believe most cultures/religions have similar rituals but won’t go into their details. The ritual involves the woman being “given away” by her father to another man. If this is not objectifying a woman, then I don’t know what is. Yeah, culture vultures can beat their drum about long standing traditions and the like to defend this ritual. Why not change this ritual to have someone from the man’s family(maybe his mother?) give him away to the girl in the same ritual? We are happy to call marriage a union of two souls, where in reality it is just a trade of one soul, the woman’s!

If you are married with the idea that your wife was “given” to you, you already start with a superiority complex. Now put parents in this equation, who still want complete control over their son’s life. After all, they did a huge favour raising him up, schooling him and making him “what he is”. While there is no doubt that parents deserve respect, and that they have actually done a huge favour making life choices for their sons, this does not give them absolute ownership of his life. Yes, your parents should be like Gods to you for what they did for you, but that does not mean that they are any less humans. That also does not mean that after you have taken responsibility for another person (by marrying them), you have just brought another slave into their service. Unfortunately women, as mothers of sons are equally responsible for this situation. As mother-in-laws, they do unto their daughter-in-laws what they never wish for anyone to do unto them, or their daughters. I am quite amazed at this level of cognitive dissonance, where in the same sentence a woman can complain about how much work her daughter has to do in her husband’s home but how little work her daughter-in-law does at hers! Even when the daughter-in-law is slaving her life out! This plays out in the decision making as well. Mother-in-laws want their sons to continue to be 100% obedient to them regardless of what the command might be. Why then does it come as a surprise that there are still many cases of wife killing, female foeticide and dowry harassment in our country!

Years ago, it was thought that education was a solution to this malaise. It can now be said with certainty that it is not. The real solution is attitude adjustment. The real solution is to break out of the patriarchal shackles and change some of those stupid old traditions that reinforce inequality. To break customs and traditions that serve so well to objectify women. And to change attitudes that create preference levels between your wife and your parents. How to start, get rid of the stupid ritual of “giving away the bride” and start a new one, where both bride AND groom are given away.

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